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September 23, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-23

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2B - September 23, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Grounded untilfurther notice

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -
Jn order to enter or exit
Rentschler Stadium, you
have to drive on wide,
repurposed roads that used to
hold airplanes. The stadium was
built on an old airport - the
parking lots flank the old run-
ways.
This is
where the
Michigan
football team
was grounded
in a 24-21 win
over Con-
necticut. EVERETT
At thisE COOK
point, maybe
Notre Dame
was the fluke.
Maybe we Icarus'd, got too close
to the lights, where we got blind-
ed by the spectacle of the Notre
Dame game and flew over the
increasingly apparent problems
of this football team.
Half of Michigan's games this
season have been utter disap-
pointments. It's time for the
expectations of this season to be
tapered, at least for now and at
least until this team improves on
what it's needed to improve on
since Week 1.
Last week against Akron
could have been an aberration,
an escape against a bad team.
Those games happen to even the
best programs.
Saturday, though was not an
aberration.
Saturday was a bad game
against a bad team, the second
game ina row where the Wolver-
ines had to claw back against a
team they should have beaten by
three touchdowns.
Saturday was a week after
fifth-year senior offensive tackle
Taylor Lewan said, "It was truly
embarrassing for Michigan
that we came out like that. We
will not come out here like this
again."
And yet, they did. The Huskies
led by two touchdowns late in
the game, and the Wolverines
needed a stunningly athletic
interception from junior line-
backer Desmond Morgan to

4

4

a

PATRICK BARRO/Oaiy
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner and the rest of the Michigan football team dazzled under the lights against Notre Dame. But since, they have shownm ajor issues on both sides of the ball.

escape against a team that lost to
an FCS opponent earlier in the
season.
Before the season, Michi-
gan had three main problems
to address: the inexperienced
offensive line, the decision mak-
ing of redshirt junior quarter-
back Devin Gardner and the play
of the secondary against deep
balls.
And after Saturday, what's
changed?
UConn beat every member of
the Wolverines' secondary deep
except for redshirt sophomore
Blake Countess and averaged
almost 10 yards a completion.
Th offensive line couldn't get.
anything resembling a push in

the first half while Gardner was
sacked three times. A shakeup
on the interior line was needed
after Notre Dame, and with a bye
week coming, it will almost cer-
tainly happen now.
And most of all, Gardner
looked like the same old Gardner
- too athletic for his own good
with a mind-numbing disregard
for keeping care of the ball.
Smart reads were finished by
carelessness. On a fourth-down
play late in the game, Gardner
muscled his way for a first down
but left the ball open. He recov-
ered his own fumble, but it was
behind the first-down marker.
He finished the game with
two interceptions, his fourth and

fifth in the last two games. Gard-
ner leads the country in turn-
overs by a wide margin, despite
the fact that Michigan has been
favored to win by more than two
touchdowns in three of the four
games it's played this season.
This isn't Ohio State, Nebraska
or Penn State - these are teams
that were supposed to help Gard-
ner get his footing in his first full
year as the starting quarterback.
"There's a lot of learning
going on, to be honest with you,"
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
said. "There's alot we put on
his shoulders. I think he keeps
learning every time he goes out."
Instead, Michigan goes limp-
ing into the bye week, unde-

feated in principle but with more
problems than ever before.
After the game, Hoke said
that he wouldn't have expected
Michigan to be 4-0 with as many
turnovers as they've had. He
didn't use Gardner's name, but
the message was pretty clear
anyway.
"The first interception was
tipped, and any time that hap-
pens I have a hard time putting
that right on the guy who threw
the football," Hoke said. "We
just have to keep working and
be conscious of how we are han-
dling situations at times. Throw-
ing the ball out of bounds is
pretty good, the offense gets the
ball back or gets to punt. We've

just got to keep running home
that message."
Substitute the word "we" out
with the word "Gardner." Make
more sense? It's not Michigan
that has to be conscious of how
they are handling the ball - it's
Gardner.
Expectations might have been
too high, but they aren't now.
They are resting comfortably on
the runway, underneath Gard-
ner's giveaways and Lewan's
empty promises, 30,000 feet
below where we were blinded by
the lights.
Cook can be reached at
evcook@umich.edu and on
Twitter @everettcook

M'sweeps
ichigan
Ivtational
By LEV FACHER in the final set and allowed
Daily Sports Writer Michigan to pull away from the
Bobcats, closing out the non-
With upcoming games against conference schedule on a posi-
two top-15 Big Ten opponents, tive note.
it would have been easy for the "The great thing with our
Michigan volleyball team to offense is that we're very bal-
look past the Michigan Invita- anced," Rosen said. "Somebody's
tional. But before the Wolverines going to be open. Right now, we
could face Penn State and Ohio have five attackers that can all
State, they had to go through No. get kills."
24 Ohio, with the tournament The Wolverines led by as many
championship on the line. as five points early in the first set
in the end, Michigan main- before Ohio cut their lead to two.
tained its focus, defeating Ohio Michigan pulled out the win,
in five sets Saturday night to thanks in part to an emphatic
clinch first place in its home block from Cross that pushed the
tournament. The win improves score to 24-18.
the Wolverines' record to 10-1 Erwin got the second set start-
and gives them their second ed with a bang for Michigan on a
win of the year against a Top 25 booming cross-court spike to the
opponent. far right corner. But the Bobcats
Senior middle blocker Jen- bounced back immediately, grab-
nifer Cross was dominant for bing a narrow lead that would
Michigan, recording 18 kills and hold throughout most of the set.
a .457 hitting percentage. Her Michigan eventually tied the
second kill of the match marked score at 22 on an Ohio net viola-
her 1,000th in a Michigan uni- tion but failed to score again, giv-
form, and her efforts earned her ing the Bobcats a 25-22 win and
the tournament's most valuable tying the match at one set each.
player award. The Wolverines recovered to
"We expect her to do that," take the third set and a 2-1 lead
said Michigan coach Mark in the match, riding Cross's five
Rosen. "And I think she expects kills to a 25-15 victory.
that of herself." Michigan failed to take the
Senior outside hitters Lexi fourth set, but it wasn't for a
Erwin and Molly Toon were lack of opportunities to take the
significant contributors as well. lead. All the momentum seemed
Erwin posted a double-double, to be with the Wolverines after
coming up with 13 kills and 17 an emphatic late-set block from
digs, while Toon had 15 kills and Cross that evened the score at
eight digs. 22. Ohio's Liis Kullerkann gave
Sophomore middle blocker Michigan the lead on a service
Krystalyn Goode took control of error, but for the second time in
the fifth set en route to a career- three sets, the Bobcats scored
high 13 kills, four of which came the final three points, forcing a

VOLLEYBALL
Cross earns

0

MVP
By SIMON KAUFMAN
DailySports Writer
With the Michigan volley-
ball team trailing Ohio, 10-9, in
the third set Saturday, senior
middle blocker Jennifer Cross
leaped, cocked back her arm
and sent the ball to the ground
to spring the Wolverines to an
11-2 run. They went on to win
the set and match.
Michigan held on to win in
five sets, giving it the tourna-
ment title from this weekend's
Michigan Invitational that also
featured games against Mar-
shall and Maryland. But it was
No. 24 Ohio that gave No. 10
Michigan its biggest scare, even
after Cross ensured it was noth-
ing more than that.
She dominated all week-
end, tallying 41 total kills, 18 of
which came against the Bob-
cats. Cross also put up a .457
hitting percentage in the tour-
nament's final contest - stats
earned her weekend's most
valuable player award.
"She had a big-time week-
end," said Michigan coach
Mark Rosen. "She was phenom-
enal and you expect that from
your seniors - a senior who has
been here for four years, who
has played at a high level like
Jennifer has."
Cross played defense, too.
She had seven blocks Saturday,
giving her 18 total blocks on
the weekend. In the first set,
the senior kept the serve on the
Wolverines' side with a block
assist before securing the set
win with a kill that found the
open court.
Cross said there was an
emphasis on blocking in prac-
tice last week, and that Rosen
stressed paying attention to the
little things, such as position-

awar
ing, which paid off in the match.
Michigan (10-1) dropped
the second set, but Cross came
out fierce in the third. She had
five kills, dominating the net
area and making blocks at key
moments. Cross also had a solo
block to give the Wolverines an
8-7 lead and a block assist to
close out the game.
In the fourth set, Cross came
up big again with a kill to put
Michigan within one, trail-
ing 20-19, and then had a huge
block to tie the game at 22. But
Ohio (10-2) won the next three
points to steal the set, sending
the match to a fifth set.
In the final set, Ohio's
defense caught on and blocked
Cross on the outside on her first
two kill attempts, but Cross
adjusted, softening her touch
on her next chance to drop the
ball into open space over two
Bobcats at the net who were
anticipating a kill.
"You always have to make
changes as a hitter to make
sure the defense doesn't get a
good read on you," Cross said.
"So that's just something I
always try to do to throw off
the defender, make them come
up and then hit deep - kind of a
cat -and-mouse game."
The ploy worked and kept
Ohio off balance, allowing
Cross to get another kill to put
the Wolverines up 12-9 before
Cross clinched the match win
five points later with a power-
ful kill.
"She was ridiculous this
weekend," Rosen said. "Her
offense was absolutely ridicu-
lous, but so was her blocking.
She really had one of the best
weekends I've ever seen her
have, and I'm excited about the
rest of the season with her play-
ing like that."

JAMES cOLLER/Daily
Senior middle blocker Jennifer Cross totaled 41 kills over the weekend.

fifth set.
"That's why we play five sets,
not one," Rosen said of the game's
back-and-forth nature. "That's
just good volleyball. We're going
to get alot of that."
Freshman middle blocker
Abby Cole, an early season stand-
out, recorded three kills in the
fifth set to make up for a slow
start to the game.
"That's a kid who has been
in college volleyball for three
or four weeks," Rosen said. "I
thought she did a really good job

tonight."
Having blown two late set
opportunities to end the match
early, Michigan started the fifth
set ferociously, led by the efforts
of Cole and Goode, whose quick-
thinking flip over the net and
into open space gave the Wol-
verines a 6-5 lead that they never
relinquished. Eventually, kills
from senior setter Dannemi-
ller and Cross sealed the victory
and sent the enthusiastic Cliff
Keen Arena crowd of 1,027 home
happy.

6

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